by Kass

Set after S1 x 05, "Judgement." Thanks to Esteefee for beta!

Try the eggs Benedict; I've had them plenty of times.

John does, and they're quite good.

It's surprising only because there's nothing about the visual presentation of the diner which suggests a chef who actually knows his craft. John is usually dubious of diner Hollandaise -- God only knows when it was made or what additives are keeping it from breaking -- but Finch knows what he's talking about. John can easily imagine showing up here with a splitting hangover, some morning after, and patching himself up with a bottomless cup of diner coffee and these eggs Benedict.

Morning after. Morning after what, is the question. John pushes that thought away with the ease of regular practice. There is, as yet, no evidence that Finch reciprocates his interest -- interest which he has taken some pains to keep concealed for precisely that reason. He doesn't know enough yet to be able to gauge what would happen if he made a move, and this is too good a gig for him to destroy it on a wrong hunch.

No. It's more than a good gig. It feels like a friendship, if a fragile one. And those -- in John's estimation -- are far rarer and more precious than even the kind of job which lifts one out of the gutter and into salvation.

He can't help turning over this tiny shred of information, holding it up to the light this way and that. Finch doesn't live on this block; that would be too simple. But he might be walking distance from here. Or he's had some reason to frequent this place. A love interest nearby, except he's never given any indication of a romantic history. (Which goes right back to John's lack of data.)

Eggs Benedict: is that some kind of code? Is Finch hinting at treachery in his past?

Possibly, but the eggs really are tasty, which makes the suggestion seem less likely to be encrypted. Also, Finch is loyal: not to the law, not to the government (laughable notion) but to his stark and occasionally painful notion of justice. And, John is increasingly certain, Finch is loyal to the people who share his crusade. Or the person; there's really only one.

Which brings John back to the reason he can't stifle his smile all morning long. Even if he isn't ready to make a move, he can't help wanting to, and he can't help feeling pleased at the way Finch dropped this tidbit, this little pearl, just for him.

When he passes a security camera outside the diner, he even smiles at the lens. Not because he gives a damn about whoever's sitting in this building's security booth, but because in a funny way it feels like he's smiling at the Machine, and if he's smiling at the Machine, then maybe Finch can see.

It's a long shot. But he imagines Finch sitting in the Library in front of his monitor, watching, and -- in the safety of anonymity -- maybe even smiling back.

The End